Pesticide banned worldwide still used to grow 70% of Australian strawberries.
About 70 per cent of Australian strawberries are being grown on runners that have been fumigated with an environmentally damaging pesticide that has been banned around the world.
Methyl bromide is an odourless and colourless gas which was banned under the United Nations Montreal Protocol in 1989 because it depletes the ozone layer.
Australia agreed to phase it out by 2005 but a decade later, strawberry runner growers in Victoria's Yarra Valley, are still using nearly 30 tonnes a year. They produce 100 million strawberry runners annually, which in turn generate about 70 per cent of Australian strawberries. Each year they apply to the UN for a critical use exemption from the ban, claiming the alternatives are financially crippling.
The strawberry growers said if they were forced to stop using methyl bromide, the viability of the $400 million strawberry industry would be "compromised" and 15,000 jobs jeopardised. The industry estimated their costs could soar by 500 per cent if they were to switch to soilless growing systems, similar to those used in parts of Europe.
The runner industry has invested more than $700,000 on research and development to find alternatives to methyl bromide.
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